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Healthy Grossman Ready to Help Anchor Blue Line

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

The number 22 is one that Nicklas Grossman would rather forget when it comes to the last season and for good reason. That’s because those digits represent how many games the Stars defenseman missed due to injury.

The 26-year-old blue liner first missed a pair of contests last December due to illness. Then came an 11-game absence for a lower body injury early in 2011. And after returning from that one in mid-March and skating in five games, he suffered a similar injury and missed the final eight games of the regular season.

However, he’s now healthy and ready to contribute to the Dallas blue line, much as he’s done over the last few seasons.

“It’s pretty frustrating, especially when you’re as close as I was. I started off with a hip injury. I came back, felt great for four or five games, almost better than I felt before I got injured,” Grossman said. “Then, I busted my knee right away. I was like all right, I can deal with this. Being so close at the end and seeing these guys battling their brains out every night to make it and just sitting there having to watch that is frustrating.”

Those aforementioned injuries limited him to just 59 games, a career-low for the normally durable Swede. It was a huge change for a guy who had missed a total of 11 games over the previous two seasons.

But when he was healthy last year, along with veteran d-man Stephane Robidas, he helped comprise the Stars’ top defensive pairing. However, skating alongside Robidas is nothing new for the 6-foot-3 defenseman, especially since the seasoned blue liner has been his playing partner basically ever since he broke into the NHL in December 2006.

“When you play like a guy as long as we have [it’s good]. Ever since I came up from the minors, they’ve paired me up with him. He’s been like a mentor, a big brother,” Grossman said.  “Being with him out there and being able to watch him on and off the ice doing the right thing all the time and always being a great guy in the locker room, it helps me and every guy in the locker room. I’ve played with him such a long time that you learn to read off each other. I think that helps out in the long run.”

And it’s clear that respect runs both ways.

“Nick is a great, young defenseman,” Robidas said. “The injury shortened his season a little bit. He’s a big part of our team and when we have him in our lineup, we were a much better team.”

Grossman is part of a defensive core that for the most part, returns intact for the coming season. While he is glad to see so many familiar faces back for another year, he’s also excited about the possibilities that new teammates like Adam Pardy and Sheldon Souray bring to the Stars roster.

“I don’t know any of them personally but just watching them, they’re two solid defenders. I know Sheldon had a couple of good years 3-4 years ago. After that, he’s been a solid defender and is a big, tough guy,” Grossman said. “I think the same goes with Pardy. He seems like a good, steady, stay at home defenseman who is pretty tough and has good size. I think they’re great additions to the club.”

But that’s not the only change he’s openly embracing. The hulking Dallas defenseman is also looking forward to seeing what new Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan brings not only between the ice but also to the room.

“I think they [Gulutzan and Crawford] are two pretty different personalities. Gully’s probably a little calmer and will try to read off the guys a little bit,” Grossman said. “I haven’t had him myself as a coach but just listening to all the guys that had him down in Texas, they said he’s pretty calm and easy going but brings a lot of respect. It’s going to be fun. It’s always fun with change. It’s kind of exciting. I can’t wait for the 17th when camp starts.”

No matter who’s on the roster or who’s behind the bench, the goal remains the same for him and his teammates, returning to the playoffs after a three-year absence. The Swedish-born defenseman has 18 games of postseason experience, all coming from 2008, the club’s last trip to the playoffs but it’s clear he wants to add to that total.

“Playoffs is the main goal. First year, we didn’t make it and everybody was like we’ll do it next year. That didn’t happen and now it’s kind of snowballed on us. We always want to nip it in the bum before it gets out of control. Every year is new and has new possibilities. This has got to be the year for us,” Grossman said.

He added: “The main goal is to make the playoffs. There’s no question about it. That’s why everyone is here and working for the same goal. You can already see that the guys here want to change things. It’s been going the wrong direction and this is the perfect time to do it. We want to get on the horse and get going.”

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